Records Fall as Kansas Slugs to 25-12 Win Over NMSU
LAS CRUCES, New Mexico – Add slugfest to the many ways Kansas has won during a season-opening win streak. The Jayhawks blasted five home runs, including three grand slams, while setting a program-record for runs and hits in a 25-12 win over New Mexico State in the Troy Cox Classic at NMSU Softball Complex Saturday night. The win marked the ninth in a row for the Jayhawks, the most to open a season since winning 10 to start the 2011 season.
Kansas clubbed 23 hits, 12 for extra bases and four off the bat of Maddie Stein who went a perfect 5-for-5 and finished a triple away from the cycle. Stein led all Jayhawks with a single-game record eight RBI, one of six Kansas batters with multiple runs driven in. The Jayhawks scored five or more runs in four of the five innings before the run-rule took effect against the tournament-host Aggies (3-4).
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen that,” Kansas head coach Megan Smith said. “I’ve never been involved in a game like that in my life. It was an odd, but exciting game.”
New Mexico State kept pace with Kansas through the first three innings but Jayhawk reliever Sophia Templin scattered two hits and limited the Aggies to just two runs over the final two frames to earn her first win of the year.
Before the nearly unimaginable happened and Kansas set team-single-game records for hits (23), runs (25), RBI (25) and doubles (7), the Jayhawks enjoyed a relatively quick start with six consecutive hits to open the contest. Among those was the team’s third grand slam in as many games by Stein to plate the first four runs, immediately followed by a solo shot from Chanin Naudin. Seven total batters would reach as KU batted around in the first.
“It was pretty dang cool,” Stein said of her long ball. “I don’t hit many home runs – I hit the fence a lot, get some doubles. Right off the bat, when you know it’s out – it’s what you play softball for, to have the moments of joy and your teammates surrounding you. When I rounded third after the grand slam to start the game off like that and came home to a bunch of smiles and hugs, it was just amazing.”
Kansas though, was just getting started.
After holding New Mexico State to just one run in the bottom of the first, the Jayhawks hung another five runs on the board in the top of the second. This time through the order, Stein doubled in a run to give Kansas a 6-1 cushion, which was only enhanced when freshman designated player Daniella Chavez hit the Jayhawks’ second grand slam three batters later.
The Aggies, who were shutout by Kansas Friday night, reminded everyone in the stands that they were same team that knocked off then-No. 18 Nebraska in a 16-11 game a week ago when they answered with five runs of their own in the bottom of second off Kansas starter Monique Wesley.
Presented with an uncomfortable 10-6 advantage, Kansas again went to work with three straight hits including a run scoring double from Chaley Brickey and run scoring single from Stein to give the Jayhawks 13 runs. For the third straight inning, Kansas loaded the bases and for the third straight inning, cleared them with one swing of the bat as No. 9 hitter Taylor McElhaney stroked her first career grand slam to make it 17-6.
In the bottom half though, a resilient Aggie squad pushed across four runs of their own as KU reliever Beth Wilson did her best to limit the scoring.
No one had the success that Templin had in the circle. Both teams managed to hold each other scoreless in the fourth inning, despite another double from Stein to lead off for the Jayhawks. In the bottom half, Templin walked a pair of NMSU batters to lead things off then buckled down to retire the next three on a sacrifice, swinging strikeout and induced a pop out to second.
“It wasn’t a surprise, Sophie is our secret weapon – she’s got dirty stuff,” Smith said. “With certain teams, it’s a perfect matchup. Tonight, with the umpire’s zone and with the team that we were playing, it was perfect. She kept them off balance and hit her spots really well after the first couple of batters. She was able to strike some out and get them to mis-hit balls and that’s what we needed tonight.
“She was a life saver for us because that was a good offensive team that put up 10 runs before she got into the game. She was great to come in and completely throw them off balance.”
Kansas responded favorably in the top half of the fifth with freshman catcher Jessie Roane leading off with a double to the base of the left field wall, her first of two extra-base hits in the inning. The first KU hitters reached before NMSU could record an out and Kansas scored on the next four consecutive plate appearances to push the tally to 22 runs. Roane’s second plate appearance of the inning was even better than the first as she connected on her first career home run to plate three and move KU to its final tally of 25 total scored.
Every player in KU’s lineup recorded a hit, with Briana Evans (4), Lily Behrmann (3), Brickey (3), Roane (3) and Shannon McGinley (2) joining Stein with multiples. Stein’s hits (5) and runs (4) tied individual single game records at Kansas and her three doubles established a new KU best.
“You don’t think stuff like that is ever going to happen to you,” Stein said of the records. “My whole career here has been unbelievable and unforgettable. To start of my senior year like this, you can’t ask for anything more.”
The Aggies touched Templin for a pair of runs in the bottom half of the fifth, but it wasn’t enough to prolong the game and Kansas bounced off the field winners, with one game in the tournament against Weber State left to play at 10 a.m. (CT) Sunday.
“It’s been fun to watch our team develop,” Smith said of the 9-0 start. “They’re growing quickly together, and sometimes it takes a while for a team to gel and mesh, especially with nine newcomers. I feel like they’re on a fast-track, they’re all on the same page, working for the same goal. We’re doing it in different ways and that’s exciting. It’s not just pitching, it’s not just hitting, it’s not just defense, it’s all of it. We’ve had major bright spots in every aspect of our game and our goal now is to go 10-0. We’re coming out tomorrow and won’t be satisfied unless we go 5-0 this weekend.”
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